Despite what some of us may think, scoliosis is not preventable, nor is it completely curable; but here’s how chiropractic care may be able to help.
Scoliosis, a condition where the spine curves sideways – usually in an “S” shape rather than growing vertically – can affect men, women and children of all ages. In fact, it is often detected after the age of three and before puberty, according to Gonstead chiropractor DR WILLIAM CHOI.
“Most cases are progressive,” says Dr Choi. “So, if it’s caught at a young age, there’s a good chance the child or young adult will ‘grow out’ of the condition. Parents should monitor their children for symptoms including uneven shoulders, one shoulder blade appearing more prominently than the other, an uneven waist or one hip higher on one side.”
What causes scoliosis?
Though there’s increasing research that shows the condition can be triggered by genetics and physical or hormonal causes, Dr Choi says 80 to 85 percent of scoliosis cases actually have undetermined causes.
“It may begin with a small bend caused by a misalignment of a single vertebra. This can occur because of postural issues, degenerative diseases or traumatic accidents. Over time, the body will compensate, building musculature that continues to pull the spine into lateral curves to ensure that the head remains levelled.”
Contrary to popular belief, carrying a heavy backpack doesn’t cause scoliosis! “Many parents have this concern when their child is diagnosed with the condition,” says Dr Choi. “Carrying this kind of weight can, however, be a source of back pain and bad posture.” (He suggests wearing a backpack with wide padded straps on both shoulders and a waist strap to help transfer the weight to the pelvis.)
How chiropractic treatment may be able to help
Though scoliosis cannot be avoided, preventive chiropractic care is important in helping to spot the condition early on, says Dr Choi.
“A professional Gonstead chiropractor is trained to complete a thorough examination that will determine the presence of scoliosis. A full health history is performed to identify any contributing factors – leg length discrepancy, subluxation, upper neck mechanical problems and vertebral malformation, for example – and a full spinal x-ray analysis helps determine the appropriate treatment for the particular case.”
Dr Choi says that while chiropractic can prevent, slow and stop the progression of scoliosis, it won’t reverse spinal curvature altogether. In fact, nothing can “cure” the condition completely – not even surgery, he says.
“Scoliosis is a structural deformity that can be stabilised but not ‘cured’. Patients often tell me they’ve been diagnosed with scoliosis and told they need surgery to straighten their spines. However, this involves fusing areas of the spine using steel rods and screws to form a scaffold to force the spine into straight alignment. Fusing vertebrae can cause future back problems. The body can reject the rods and cause difficulty in breathing. A patient may have to undergo another surgery to have the rods removed.”
As a gentle and conservative treatment approach, Gonstead chiropractic care involves using specific spinal adjustments to reverse the body’s compensations and assist in the restoration process, says Dr Choi. “We provide information on exercises and a specific chiropractic plan to suit the individual.”
He adds, “Scoliosis doesn’t mean a child can’t participate in sports or PE, or that adults can’t be active. Indeed, it’s still important to have overall spinal fitness. After the initial chiropractic adjustments, swimming and walking are good activities, as they don’t put stress on the spine. I also have several patients who practice yoga on a regular basis – though do proceed with caution.”
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